Stat nerds and reality clash in Donald Trump candidacy

Technically Incorrect: The boffins declare that the "Celebrity Apprentice" host is the worst presidential candidate since data was collected. Trump insists he's the greatest.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Are the data nerds right about this man? Reuters/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Tuesday was a day that will live forever in science, politics and regular human culture.

It began with data nerds throwing a vast haymaker in the direction of one of America's leading statesmen, Donald Trump.

The number nerds' haven of truth, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, offered a searing statistical indictment of the great "Celebrity Apprentice" host.

"Why Donald Trump Isn't A Real Candidate In One Chart," blared the intemperate headline. What followed were descriptions of Trump as the "anti-LeBron" and suggestions that his net favorability rating was -32. That's zero degrees, right?

Net favorability is a measure of favorable minus unfavorable, and Trump is, according to the number crunchers, "the first candidate in modern presidential primary history to begin the campaign with a majority of his own party disliking him."

The final ruffling of his hair was the suggestion that Trump is "by far the worst of the 106 presidential candidates since 1980 who are in our database."

But then reality (TV) struck and Trump showed that this can't be true. As The New York Times reports, he affirmed that he would be "the greatest jobs president that God ever created."

Well, he's already been the greatest company president since Steve Jobs, so this is but the next step in God's plan, surely.

He went on to explain that other candidates don't even prepare the air conditioning to work during their announcements, so how could they possibly deal with extremist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)?

Silver and his fellow pollsters have had great successes predicting the outcome of elections in the past. However, in recent political cycles they have fallen off their bikes. They admit it, too.

So how can we be sure that their numbers match Trump's insistence that he's going to be very best? After all, on Twitter, his announcement was greeted with an uprising of joy, as if he's the liberator that everyone's been waiting for.

Alright, perhaps not everyone.

This comment from his presidential address has incurred some Twitter ire: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

As Twitterer Zayda Gurza curtly pointed out: "You are such an idiot. I hope u don't win. How can u criticize Mexico when US have more crazy people that kills for nothing?"

Trump said some quite novel things about China and Saudi Arabia too.

Of course those with at least two jaundiced eyes and a liver tiring from exercise will suggest that all the public outpouring about Trump's candidacy is the whole point.

He gets publicity, they will say. And we get the entertainment we need as an antidote to the even more painful nonsense spouted by other candidates. It's what in political discourse they call a win-win.

But what if the nerds are wrong? What if the Trumpster captures imaginations with his bluster and his promises of renewed American glory?

Critics will say that Americans aren't that stupid. Other critics (of America) will say nothing is beyond our fair nation of real housewives and bachelors.

If Trump were to succeed, would this make all of the algorithmics who believe they have ultimate knowledge pause and even wither?

Will people vote for Trump because they think this is a raging vote against the machine?

You can feel the excitement, can't you?